Notes Young Guns Firing OMeara Moving On

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SAN DIEGO -- Moments after Charles Howell III finished second at the Sony Open, he bristled when asked about young Americans' vanishing act on the PGA TOUR.
 
Ben Curtis is the only American in his 20s with a major. Curtis and Jonathan Byrd are the only U.S. players under 30 with multiple wins.
 
'I think it's ridiculous,' Howell said. 'I don't understand it to be honest with you. I think American golf under 30 is fine. If you look across the board, if you look at guys playing nowadays, I don't buy into that, no.'
 
Indeed, it has become a sensitive topic.
 
But the last few weeks on the PGA TOUR have offered some hope, starting with the 27-year-old Howell.
 
He had two chances to win in his first three tournaments, after an offseason in which he poured the majority of his time into putting. Three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine put a brief scare into Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines. Howell needed eagle on the final hole to force a playoff and hit a 3-wood from a tough lie in the rough to the middle of the green.
 
Woods called it 'one of the best shots I've seen him hit.'
 
'The lie wasn't all that good, but he pulled it off,' Woods said. 'That shows you he's heading in the right direction.'
 
Howell had company at the Buick Invitational.
 
Brandt Snedeker, 26, opened with a 61 and remained atop the leaderboard going into the final round but finished third. Jeff Quinney, the former U.S. Amateur champion, tied for fourth at the Bob Hope Classic. He was tied for the lead at Torrey Pines, then stumbled over the final five holes and tied for seventh.
 
Meanwhile, Howell moved up to No. 43 in the world rankings after starting the year at No. 82. He must stay inside the top 50 in the world or the top 10 on the money list (No. 3) through March to get into the Masters.
 
MOVING ON
Mark O'Meara finished his regular PGA TOUR career with a birdie, but not much fanfare.
 
O'Meara turned 50 two weeks ago and said he would devote his time exclusively to the Champions Tour, except for the Masters and British Open. As a former champion of both majors, he can play Augusta National as long as he wants and the British Open until he's 65.
 
'There comes a time when you have to move on,' O'Meara said. 'I feel like I can still get the ball around a little bit, but I'm kidding myself if I think I can compete against these kids.'
 
He picked Torrey Pines as his finale, because he grew up nearby in Mission Viejo and won the Buick Invitational in 1997. O'Meara easily made the cut but stalled on the weekend. In a quiet departure, he was first off the 10th tee Sunday in the final round, meaning he finished on the ninth hole, nearly a mile from the clubhouse.
 
But he had a few fans, playing with Phil Mickelson and being only two groups behind Tiger Woods.
 
O'Meara did not rule out an end to regular PGA TOUR events, although he is so serious about the Champions Tour that he will miss the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which he won five times.
 
'I'm looking forward to playing with guys my own age,' O'Meara said.
 
OOPS
It's not as though Tiger Woods doesn't already win enough on the PGA TOUR.
 
In an oversight published on the back of its media guide, the PGA TOUR lists Woods as the defending champion at the Honda Classic, a tournament he never has played as a professional.
 
The defending champion is Luke Donald.
 
CHINA FUTURE
TOUR officials said last year that Mission Hills Golf Club in China would get the World Cup in 2007 and 2008, then stage a World Golf Championship every year through 2018.
 
That plan hasn't changed, even with Monday's announcement that the World Cup is no longer part of the WGC series.
 
Ty Votaw, executive vice president of international affairs for the PGA TOUR, said Tuesday a WGC event could be played in China as early as next year, more likely in 2009.
 
'Whether it's in China every year or not, those are details that haven't been worked out,' he said. 'The plan would be to have a presence in China on a regular basis.'
 
TACKLING TIGER
The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a mock trivia question last week asking who would be the first defensive back taken in the NFL draft. The answer was Tiger Woods.
 
Someone must have seen Woods' latest Buick commercial.
 
In one take, a fan runs up to him on the range and takes his stack of golf balls, then quickly returns and grabs his bag. Woods throws a ball and hits the man in the back, knocking him to the ground. Woods liked the commercial but felt it wasn't a natural reaction.
 
'If someone took my bag, I would do something a little bit more than just throw a golf ball at him,' he said. 'So I told the director, 'I have an idea. What do you think if I went out there and tried to grab the bag away from him?''
 
Only he didn't exactly grab him.
 
Woods lunged at the man and tackled him hard to the ground. What the commercial doesn't show is a small cut on the actor's forehead.
 
'As I got closer to him, I got into it a little bit,' Woods said. 'I got a little excited, and yeah, he had a little scratch on his forehead. Just a little scratch. He toweled off, and he was fine.'
 
DIVOTS
After going 112 years without a corporate partner, the USGA now has two. Lexus has signed a deal to become the official car of the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur. The USGA announced late last year a corporate partnership with American Express. ... Ryan Palmer withdrew from the Buick Invitational because his wife in Dallas went into labor. He got there with four hours to spare to see the birth of his first child, a son they named Mason Cooper. ... In the PGA TOUR's attempt to validate the Nationwide Tour as something more than a minor league, consider the disbursement of world ranking points Sunday. Miguel Carballo won the Nationwide event in Panama and received more ranking points than Andrew Buckle received for his tie for fourth at the Buick Invitational.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Since missing the cut at the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods is 166 under in his last 10 tournaments around the world, with 32 out of 40 of his rounds in the 60s.
 
FINAL WORD
'If you stick Tiger in anybody else's era, everybody else's total would be dramatically different.' -- David Duval.
 
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